Kennedy Center Bans V.O. Machine

Volume CVI, No. 1January, 2006

The machine has lost again — this time at one of the most famous venues in the country. The Kennedy Center has agreed to ban the machine with its Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra. The four-year deal was made with AFM Local 161-710 (Washington, D.C.).

Tom Prince, president of Local 161-710, said in a statement that “the Kennedy Center, by agreeing to never use the virtual orchestra machine, has demonstrated its commitment to live music.” Local 161-710 represents the 61 members of the orchestra.

“Although several groups in New York and Los Angeles have agreed to similar bans, the Kennedy Center is by far the highest-profile institution so far to agree to the ban,” Gregory Drone, the orchestra committee chair, told the Washington Post.

Drone added, “President Prince, having been exposed to the virtual orchestra machine issue at the Pamphlet B negotiations in New York, impressed upon us the importance of pursuing the ban at the Kennedy Center.”

The new agreement also continues the orchestra’s relationship with the musicians of the New York City Ballet. Four years ago, in order to bring the ballet back to Washington after a long absence, the center and the orchestra reached an agreement for accompanying the dancers in which each set of musicians would play in alternate years. That deal stands under the new contract.

Kennedy Opera House musicians will continue to work seven weeks for ballet performances, the same guarantee as the last contract. A separate agreement stipulates that the orchestra work 21 weeks for the Washington National Opera. The basic salary for the 28 weeks is $56,800, according to Drone.